Today was Youth Sunday. For those of you who aren’t Presbyterian, you must know that once a year, the youth of the church are “supposed” to be given control over the Worship Service; organizing, leading, etc. It can be an exciting or completely aggravating time. This year, it was looking like our students were not going to take the lead in getting into it, unless just a few weeks ago. They got excited about sermon possibilities and especially about the music. They didn’t want to do “the same old boring Youth Sunday worship songs” and so they even busted out David Crowder’s “O Praise Him” – and very well I must add (we had a girl learn how to play drums in 3 weeks and did an AMAZING job). Here is a picture of them leading worship. However, this morning after the first service, the “drama” began.
You see, I gave our secretary the Order of Worship before I left for Illinois, but the youth had decided they wanted to do the service backwards (beginning with the Benediction and just working backwards). They wanted to be different, to show that you could worship in different ways, that we didn’t always have to “go by the book.” After the first service, my pastor looked at me and the woman who works with me and said, “Can I see you two in my office…?”
He began by telling us how much he loved the service, the sermon (which 6 different students participated in), the music…everything…except….the fact that we did it backwards. He said it was completely “disorderly” and “God is a God of order!” It was like a “freak show circus” and we were going to upset many people, and the service was going to have incredible negative repercussions within the congregation. He said he wanted to walk out and he could not worship because it was “so different.” I didn’t hear *anyone* from the 1st service say they were bothered by the order of worship, and one gentleman even mentioned how he was especially challenged by the service, how things were different, and was incredibly moved by the worship and the messages of the students.
I was upset that my pastor felt the need to “micro-manage” this Sunday’s service, and wondered why the youth even are in charge of putting together Youth Sunday if they are going to be told that they need to change things. I said to my pastor, “Yes, God may be a God of order, but aren’t we kind of putting God in a box here…I know we’re Presbyterians and we are supposed to do things “decently and in order” – but God is not just a God of order…God is spontaneous…” – but he just insisted that God was a God of order! And this worship service, being backward, was not appropriate at all.
He asked what we were going to do, and I replied, “Well, it seems we have no option here. But I’m certainly not going to walk in there and tell them they have to do it completely different.” So we brought the students in, he complimented them and then suggested that we needed to rethink doing the service in the “correct order” – the students responded with the same questions I did (Why are we even in charge of this Sunday then? Why can’t the congregation handle one Sunday being different?) Eventually, my pastor left the room and the decision was up to us.
I told the students that I was on their side (which, I suppose some of you may say was *not* honoring the role of the pastor, by going against him in front of my students…) and that it was the congregation’s problem if they couldn’t handle the service being different. But, I so wanted the congregation to hear the strong and moving message of the students, that we may have to simply “give in” to this so that they will in fact hear the message.
We did, and people were incredibly moved by the service…so, all in all, it turned out okay.
But…my question (and maybe this is directed especially to you PC(USA)ers out there) – but at what point does God being a God of order get out of control? Do we see that God is a God of order…? Yes. Is God *only* a God of order…? Have we simply turned God into a God of order because that is how we want God to be? Because we are more comfortable with a God of order. Quakers certainly don’t believe in the same God of Order that my pastor does. So, how does this work…?
Just ran across this article, talking about this very issue. This is from the first paragraph.
“I just wanted to comment on the use of the Biblical statements, “God is a God of order” and “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Recently I was discussing I Cor 14:40 and the surrounding passage with a pastor. I was trying to make the point that a particular expression of Christianity was violating God’s order for worship when this godly pastor gently stopped me in my tracks. “Are they violating God’s concept of order–or your concept of order? Are you imposing your own ideas about order on the passage?” That certainly gave me much to ponder. I recall, many years ago, being presented with the argument that any non-liturgical service violates I Cor 14:40 because non-liturgical worship is not orderly enough. I also recall hearing about a pastor being dressed down for violating this Scripture because he chose, one fateful Sunday, to veer a bit from the “Order of Worship” printed in the bulletin. Is this definition of decency and order what God intended?”